It was 7:00 p.m. on a Thursday night and campus was scrambling. After a long hell week filled with exams, milestone deadlines, team meetings and sleepless nights, the evening ahead was almost daunting. However, the allure of the concert experience pulled thousands of fans to Variety Playhouse that night, even in the middle of the oppressive school week.
After waiting through the lines embracing the venue, the bar at the entrance within called the fans forth, adorned with various crewnecks and sweatshirts. Small pieces of familiarity within the waiting period inside brought the growing audience to bob their heads along to the Jeremy Zucker and Lauv songs playing in the background as they meandered their ways over to a seat or to the pit.
The audience’s discomfort from waiting in line quickly turned to excitement and shyness transformed to boldness. All of a sudden, 10 minutes had passed and the lights dimmed. Dentist-turned-musician and Atlanta-dweller Austin Collazo entered the stage with a bleach blonde buzzcut and a guitar in his hands. The purple smoke in the background exuded a dreamlike sequence. The audience mirrored his easy energy — the lazy smile that took over his face when he closed his eyes and sang from the heart. In between songs like “If I Make It,” “Mexico” and “Gold Digger,” Collazo invited us into his head, telling us stories of his move to Atlanta, the pain of his recent divorce and how he found solace in music which encouraged him to make the career change. In front of Austin Collazo, dreams are for the taking, for the making, and for the actualizing. He made the air comfortable, telling the audience stories like they were children fighting away sleep in the faint glow of a nightlight.
As he continued, the audience let the bittersweet acoustic music tear a hole in their hearts and sew it back up again on its own.
His set ended all too soon and was followed by the bold, bright, booming thunder and red lights that preceded Sam MacPherson. His style started off edgier and more energetic, as he set the tone as a risk-taker.
In the midst of his songs “Forget I Exist,” “How Do You Dress for the Rain” and his most recent single, “Backseat (All I Got),” Sam paused for short intermissions but favored clever quips and one-liners over stories. The lyrics in “How Do You Dress for the Rain” caught the ear.
“How do you dress for the rain? How do you ask her to stay?” he crooned. His lavender illuminated skin paired with a soft voice humming about love and heartbreak was so uniquely human, captivating the audience in the moment. This was the vulnerability of live music. He reached deep within our rib cages, drawing out the emotions within. The pit started to fill up as he reached his final song, Last Minute, about his long-distance relationship with a girl from his hometown that started right before he left for LA. Right person, wrong time. He left us with a somber finish, the atmosphere dampening just to lighten up in the anticipation of the headliner.
The audience waited for 20 minutes, the excitement peaking and the crowd growing restless and quelled with soft pop anthems like “Anyone” by Justin Beiber, “i’m so tired..” by Lauv and “Circles” by Post Malone. When Jake Scott entered the room, all else faded to the darkness. His name glowed in lights, a purple halo of fog appeared and he jumpstarted the crowd with “CWJBHN, Can We Just Be Happy Now?” The crowd favorite that had everyone on their feet.
Gone was the soft, somber atmosphere of the openers as Jake Scott announced a celebration in his name that night in the venue.
Throughout the night he oozed confidence, masterfully controlling the stage and the audience like a puppeteer. When he reached another fan favorite, “She,” couples with arms wrapped around each other swayed in place as the music vibrating deep within our bones. He played Lavender, the namesake of his upcoming release from his first studio album and the lyrics sunk deep into the audience. He told the audience that every love song he has ever written is about his wife Rachel and the sweetness of the songs teased a cavity. He sang like it was all he has left, like his every breath was meant to be a song. When he reached more upbeat tunes like “Good Day, Green Eyes, Texas Girl” the crowd jumped in the pit, getting lost in the melody.
He made a sudden exit and thanked everyone for their attendance, only to be lured back with the echoing chant of “Encore! Encore! Encore!”
He jumped back on stage to finish out the night with “Favorite T-Shirt,” one of his most popular releases and the song that first introduced many fans to him. He ran out into the crowd and wrapped his arms around enlivened fans, the energy in the room coming to a steady decline. We were left in awe of it all — of live music at its finest. The songs don’t sound the same on headphones when you’ve heard them live. Live music, you’ve stolen our hearts yet again.